A Christmas Carol How Scrooge Is Saving Theatres This Christmas

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A Christmas Carol How Scrooge Is Saving Theatres This Christmas

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published at the end of 1843. Within weeks stage versions were chilling the spines of Victorian theatregoers – while warming their hearts too.

But the ghostly story of the miserly, misanthropic Scrooge and his spiritual salvation has been in the theatre this year more than ever. Is there something about the tale which speaks to hard times?

Earlier this year Owen Calvert-Lyons took charge of the historic Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. He was looking forward to staging Cinderella as its annual Christmas panto – the financial bedrock which keeps many British theatres solvent for the rest of the year.

But he began to think how disruptive the Covid-19 pandemic might become for theatre everywhere. In fact for now, despite the tightening of restrictions elsewhere this weekend, Suffolk remains in tier two and shows can continue if properly socially distanced.

“So I decided we’d do our Christmas show outdoors in the town centre. But that meant finding something shorter and relatively simple to stage,” he says.

“A Christmas Carol was the obvious choice – it’s easier to find dramatic shortcuts with a story which is already familiar to people watching.

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“Also the story works well with a small cast of five like ours – and certain effects really suit a winter evening.”

Bury St Edmunds’ version of A Christmas Carol is one of at least two dozen adaptations announced for this Christmas around the UK.

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The Liverpool Playhouse version, for instance, also boasts a cast of five and it’s gone ahead. Other versions this year varied from humble one-person shows to the lavish musical in the West End which featured Brian Conley – until it and several other Scrooges were felled by quickly changing coronavirus restrictions.

London’s Old Vic has cannily re-staged the production it originated in 2017: this year it’s livestreamed only with no audience to worry about.

A Christmas Carol How Scrooge Is Saving Theatres This Christmas

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